Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Pythagorean plant?

Anybody know what this is?

(And don't say 'some plant' if you want to retain my friendship.)  It seeded itself a few weeks ago and has been growing like a triffid. 

The reason I mention it is that it's the only plant I've ever seen that has worked out what a right angle is.  Take a closer look, from above:

Those leaves are at exact ninety degree angles to each other, in opposing pairs all the way down the stem, north-south, east-west, etcetera.  This is extraordinary.  Plants aren't supposed to be able to do geometry, are they?

Pythagoras discovered the right angle, on which, dare I say, much of human achievement has since been built.  (If you don't believe me, read 'Why does E=mc squared?' by Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw, which lucidly traces Einstein's theory of relativity directly from Pythagoras's famous theorem.  (You'll have to work your brain a bit though.))

So, it appears that this humble weed has, all by itself, grown one of the greatest achievements of the human intellect.  It deserves at least a name for that.  Anybody recognise it?

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Caravan Diaries

Early on Friday evening I was sitting in the van, nursing a drink and studying the way the field slopes down to the sea, past half a dozen dark unoccupied caravans: at that time, I think I was the sole inhabitant of the park, something that always gives me a strange feeling, exhilaratingly creepy.

The field was full of rabbits.  Rabbits of all sizes from new-born bunnies to grand old bucks.  I counted 25, though that may include some duplicates.  Without going all horribly Watership Down on you, I can provide you with the following guidelines should you ever need to impersonate a rabbit in the spring:

1. Make sure no humans are in sight, come out onto your field and start eating grass.
2. Another rabbit will soon emerge close to you.  When this happens, abandon grass-eating and engage instead in acrobatic break-dancing with your partner, including somersaults.
3. For absolutely no reason, both abruptly cease leaping around and go back to eating grass.
4. Repeat until it gets too dark or a human appears (hint to humans: rabbits can't see through glass). 
5. Scarper off to your burrow, presumably to do whatever it is rabbits do in the dark.

On Saturday, returned from a low tide walk over to Monkstone Point with my friends, I'm back in the van, watching again, when a partridge (not a pheasant, I looked it up) strutted across the patio.  'Oh, hello', I couldn't stop myself saying.  The partridge looked superciliously up at me.  'And who are you, pray?'  it said.

We also saw a daddy blackbird plucking worms from the ground and feeding them to his nipper, who was several sizes bigger than him.

Never a dull moment!  And I haven't even started to tell you about the fridge.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Head or heart?

I'd done the simple calculation ages ago: there was no way that the LibDem was going to overtake either of the others.  The 2005 figures (rounded) were: Labour 19000 (45%), Cons 14000 (34%), LibDem 7000 (16%), on a turnout of 55% of an electorate of 72000.  So I had to vote tactically - Labour in order to keep out the Tory.  But it stuck in my craw.  I was about to search out a suitable clothespeg.

But this afternoon I decided to have a closer look (well, it was that or wash the kitchen floor).  I made a few not unreasonable assumptions, and came up with a surprising conclusion. 

The Labour vote in 05 was 8% down on 01, largely as an anti-war reaction.  That it wasn't down further was due to the popularity of our great constituency MP Martin Salter, who has now retired.  So I thought it reasonable to assume that the new Labour candidate would lose this personal vote, especially as he's been helicoptered in from Essex.  So, I thought, reduce let's Labour's share by another 12%.

Assume that the Tory vote here is more or less unchanged.  34% seems about right.  The candidate is local, and seems unobjectionable (apart from his politics).

Apply the national swing to the LibDems, so up from 16 to say 28%.   The candidate is, again, local.

All the above is based on the 2005 turnout of 55%.

But then, assume that turnout is going to increase dramatically.  This is a politically aware constituency (personal knowledge confirms this).  I have factored in a 75% turnout.  I've also, controversially, applied the increase in the ratio of 25% Labour, 25% Tory, 50% LibDem.  (I think this is ungenerous to the LibDems).

Running all that through the calculator, it comes out at near enough 17000 votes for each of the three parties.  Would you believe it?

So, guess what I'm doing tomorrow morning?  That's right, looking again at my maths, checking out the relative health of my head and my heart, then trolling across to Cranberry Road to cast my vote.